Work could start in the next few months on the long-awaited regeneration of Waterford's North Quay after the Government approved over €110m in funding for the project.
The €400m mixed-use development for the currently-disused eight-hectare site close to Waterford's city centre has the potential to create 2,800 long-term jobs, according to backers.
Cabinet this morning signed off on €80.6m in Urban Regeneration and Development funding for the plan from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with another €30m of that coming through the Department of Transport.
Included in the blueprint is office, residential, commercial, leisure and shopping developments and Waterford City and County Council granted planning permission during the summer.
The developers, Falcon Real Estate Development, said today that Waterford and the surrounding region have the potential "to become the fastest-growing region in Ireland".
They intend to move quickly on completing site contracts with the council, to transfer ownership of the land involved, and to put out the tender for infrastructure and enabling works, "with the aim of commencing construction work on site in Q1 of 2021, starting with hoarding and enabling works packages," director Rob Cass said.
"The development is the culmination of partnership and collaboration with local authorities, State bodies and Government departments since 2016, that will now see Waterford North Quays act as the catalyst to unlocking funding for other projects in Waterford city and the south-east region."
Two cabinet members, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, were due to visit the North Quay site today, but have had to remain in Dublin to vote on the confidence motion relating to Leo Varadkar.
Minister O'Brien has indicated that he will travel to the area at a later date to meet local civic leaders.
A new transport "hub" is part of the long-term plan as well as a new footbridge across the river Suir.
The hub will see the city's railway service re-locate from the existing Plunkett Station east, into the North Quay site and be joined by a new bus facility.
We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
Minister Eamon Ryan said this "sustainable" transport link will provide access for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users.
He said: "I believe the re-located train station will also provide a real catalyst for the urban regeneration and development of the wider site.
"This entire project is an example of how sustainable transport can help drive economic development, while also providing improvements in people's quality of life in our regional cities."
The regeneration includes a seven-storey twin office block; five residential buildings of up to 17 storeys in height including 298 riverside apartments; a 15-storey hotel and conference centre; 30,000 square metres of green and community space; a mixed-use commercial building including shopping, tourism and food outlets as well as a cinema and creche; restaurants, bars and cafes.
Minister of State Mary Butler, a Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford, said today's announcement represents "one of the single biggest investments ever in the south-east".
Senator John Cummins, of Fine Gael, said today's announcement is "the culmination of years of very hard work and I sincerely hope it is the day that Waterford turns its back on negativity and looks forward with optimism to the brighter future we have ahead of us, particularly in these dark and challenging times".
Local Green Party TD Marc Ó Chathasaigh said the announcement is a "once-in-a-generation" development, for "something that's destined to change our city, and change our city for the better".
He pointed out that it will end up linking the successful Waterford Greenway with the new New Ross Greenway.
"I'm really excited to see what the next couple of years will bring," he said.
Minister Darragh O'Brien said that, for too long, Waterford and the south-east have suffered from "underdevelopment and underinvestment" and that the North Quay project "is a very good example of helping a region to thrive".
The then government designated the site a Strategic Development Zone in 2016 and Falcon says that over €350 million in private investment will be "unlocked" by the Government funding they want.
The Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Damien Geoghegan, said the funding "solidifies our commitment to the North Quays Strategic Development Zone which is the single largest enable of regional economic growth".
The CEO of the council, Michael Walsh, said Waterford is "well-placed to show resilience and recover with the delivery of 1,500 new jobs directly related to the construction phase of the project alone".